From New International, Vol.12 No.9, November 1946, pp.271-272.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.
The resolution of the National Committee on the Jewish question postulates free immigration for the Jews to Palestine. Abstract as it is, the resolution is undoubtedly correct: as a matter of course we fight for the principle of free emigration and immigration for all people from and to all countries around the globe.
The problem, however, is whether and how this principle should be applied or modified in the concrete case. Our objection to the resolution is that it is too abstract. If we consider the Palestine question, as it presents itself now, we must discuss mainly two points:
- The people who have immigrated or want to immigrate to Palestine, their aims and predominant ideology, and
- the people who have lived there all the time. Let us emphasize here that the Jewish and the Palestine question fall under the category of transitory demands and transitory solutions. Some of the discussion articles seem to be dangerously unaware of this fact.
The Jews have immigrated or want to immigrate to Palestine in order to establish there a “Jewish Commonwealth.” This they want for two reasons:
1) They have to leave Europe because of their persecution, for their desperate plight, for their lives. We have, of course, not only to fight against their discrimination and its causes but also to support, by all means, the realization of their right to immigrate to one or several countries where they can live free from inimical pressure. This statement, however, is still abstract. Let us look at the circumstances:
2) Why do they desire to immigrate to and colonize just Palestine? For two reasons:
When Zionism (or, generally, movements aiming at the re-creation of a Jewish nation) arose early in this century, its leaders found Palestine most appropriate for the realization of their aims not only for ideological reasons, about which later, but first of all because it was the “country of least resistance.” Its inhabitants lived their miserable lives still unawakened, under medieval feudalism and despotism. No effectual resistance on their part could be expected. So the Zionists tried to acquire the country wholesale by some dirty deal with money-needing Sultan Abdul Hamid and later acquired successively, in retail, large stretches of it by orderly business, purchasing it from the feudal lords. Thus the colonization started.
When, in World War I, British imperialism deemed it to its interest to implant some foreign body at the oil-pipe line in the slowly awakening Arab world, Jewish nationalism gladly took the chance and was granted the Balfour Declaration, to be achieved under the British Mandate. Their imperialist protector dealt effectively with the growing resistance of the Arabs, clubbing down their revolts by even more atrocious and brutal methods than she now employs against the Jews. Jewish colonization, nourished on funds abundantly furnished by wealthy Zionist partisans all over the world, has made such considerable progress that the Palestinian Jews can now, by their own means, not only check effectively the native majority of the country, but also dare to challenge even Great Britain who, now, deems it her imperialist interest to restrict further colonization. There can be no doubt that Jewish colonization, however effective it may be, will, in the long run, always depend on one or the other imperialist protector. But all its possible success is based on the economic, cultural and political backwardness of the Arab nation. Just imagine if a similar attempt were made to colonize some land under the sovereignty of a modern power with the purpose of establishing a sovereign “homeland”: for instance, Virginia or even virtually uninhabited Alaska or the Aleutians! Unnecessary to state how hopeless this would be. This “least resistance” is the one, the practical, reason why Zionism chose Palestine.
The other is ideological. Zionism, as all varieties of Jewish nationalism, is based on a racialist ideology which is, at least, as old as and, by no means on a higher level than, Hitler’s: The Jewish intellectuals who conceived the idea of a formation or reformation of a Jewish nation have adhered to the doctrine that a common origin postulates as necessary or desirable the preservation of the “race,” a common life, culture, country and language. (As to the latter: the Jewish masses had, and prevalently still have, no other relation to Hebrew than, say, the Catholics have had to Latin. Hebrew had to be crammed by the neophytes after having been developed into a vehicle of modern thought by the efforts of philologists.) The Zionists leaders considered Palestine the appropriate scene for their racist experiment not only for its “least resistance” but also because the new ideology could be made still more attractive by blending it with religious sentiments and historical “claims.” The pact with Jehovah is a title not much worse than the Balfour Declaration and so is the fact that the Jews lived – prior to 2000 years ago – in the now once more chosen country. It might not be completely superfluous to remark here that analogous historical claims have been part of the stock-in-trade of all imperialisms and petty-imperialisms and that there is no nation Europe whose country could not be claimed for such reasons by several states. The new ideology was further mixed with, and turned still more into a mystery by the age-old longing for an escape from anti-Semitism and discrimination. Let us be aware that this ideology (neglecting its not too interesting varieties permeates all strata of the Jews, unfortunately including the working class, and is a determining factor of the social and political ends (which we characterize as petty-imperialist) of the immigration to Palestine. Let us not, in wishful thinking, anticipate any future effect which internationalist propaganda might have.
The difference between the Jewish and other colonizations consists man in the fact that with the former the necessary state compulsion had first to be supplied by another nation, whereas the colonists themselves were able take to care of the economic means necessary for penetration and hegemony. These superior means have been supplied by either the colonists themselves or, principally, by a steady stream of voluntary contributions, mostly from wealthy European and American Jews. These funds were used, first of all, for buying land from the feudal lords. Juridically, these transactions were purchases; economically, however, they were expropriations of the indescribably poor Arab peasants, who had tilled small stretches of this land as tenants and semi-serfs and who were promptly evicted. The landlord received the indemnity and the peasants lost their only source for a miserable 1iving and were turned into lumpenproletarians. These former tenant acres and former arid lands were made highly productive by means of capital investments, improvements and modern methods of production. The colonists became powerful competitors of the remaining native peasants and landlords. To be sure, Arab peasants were exactly as hungry for these lands as the colonists, but the former lacked the necessary funds to purchase and to improve the land, and they lacked wealthy partisans abroad to help them.
Other Jewish investments poured into industries and workshops, competing successfully with, and ruining the ancient Arab craftsmen. The immigrants have enjoyed a monopoly as far as capital and knowledge (which is another form of capital) are concerned. This monopoly has necessarily been transforming the natives into “natives,” the lower and lowest stratum of the country, exactly as has always been the case in any colonial country. The argument that the economic and cultural standard of the Arabs has absolutely improved through these developments is undoubtedly correct. But what counts in a society is the relative standard. That of the Arabs has been lowered enormously, as compared to the standard of living of the colonists who form, now, more than a quarter of the population. (All colonial masters, after all, rightly boast about having raised the absolute standards of their natives. Even the most vicious imperialism, France, is able to show some improvements in favor of its natives as, say, sanitation, cheap household gadgets, transportation and even some minimum of medical care.) The fact that the lower stratum of the Jewish colonists is allowed (by pseudo-socialist and other methods) to participate, to a certain degree, in the surplus gained by the monopoly on capital and knowledge does not make the slightest difference as to the purely colonial penetration of the Jews in Palestine. On the contrary, it exacerbates its effects and does so all the more, if we consider the ideology and aims of the colonists, which necessarily lead to discrimination against the Arabs as far as jobs, language and cultural institutions are concerned.
The Arab world is awakening. It is only a question of time when a powerful movement for national liberation and unification will set in. It will be a progressive movement whether it is led by feudal-capitalists or not; whether it can or cannot succeed without a victorious socialist movement. We will have to support it unconditionally  as we did even Haile Selassie, or other oriental despots, in their struggle for national independence from imperialism. The national interests of the Arabs will naturally clash with those of the Jewish colonists, leaving aside the former’s no less legitimate economic and social grievances. There can be no doubt that in this clash, whose first symptoms coincide with imperialist wranglings, we will have to take sides – for the Arabs. Let us keep in mind that the national (therefore also Jewish) question will, after a socialist victory have quite a different aspect. Our transitional program, however, must be based On the facts we stated above. As things are now: Jewish colonization in Palestine is dominated by a reactionary ideology; Palestine has been inhabited by the Arabs and is part of their national territory; the Arabs rightly refuse to let themselves be turned into natives, to be dominated or economically controlled by either a minority or majority. and their national aspirations deserve our unconditional support.  On the other hand, however, the Jews in Europe, terrifically persecuted and discriminated against, also deserve our support as all persecuted peoples do, in Europe and anywhere.
Conclusion: we therefore propose to modify the resolution so that it includes:
- The demand for free immigration to and emigration from any country and for all people; but as far as the Jews are concerned, this demand should be limited by the words “except Palestine”;
- To call not only abstractly to the Jewish workers now in Palestine to fraternize with the Arabs, but concretely to share fraternally with the Arabs their land and improvement, their knowledge and skills, their hospitals and cultural institutions and any advantage whatsoever flowing from their better equipment, better education and the funds which have flowed and will flow in the future into the country from abroad; to lend to the Arabs their (the Jewish workers) conditional support of the right of the exclusive use of the Arab language in all institutions which the Arabs will hereby acquire.
1. The text originally published read “conditionally” and “conditional support”. In a letter published in New International, Vol.13 No.1, January 1947 Brooks pointed out that this was a serious error. We have corrected this error.
Last updated on 13.9.2008